Las Vegas Paiute Resort's Wolf Course has quite a bite if the wind is howling

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- It was hardly a typical early autumn day when Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam marched up to the first tee of the Wolf Course at Las Vegas Paiute Resort.

The wind was whipping around the brand spanking new Pete Dye designed layout like it was looking for lost balls behind creosotes and cactus. A few stray clouds made their way quickly across the hazy blue sky like the backdrops in a time elapse film.

A far cry from the sunny, statue still days that most locals associate with October in Clark County.

The LPGA's two marquee players were in town to film a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf match that would air on EPSN two weeks later. Neither woman was too happy with the prevailing conditions and their early morning smiles disappeared like a shadow in the midday desert sun.

Its one thing to take on the longest course in Nevada (at 7,600 yards from the tips, the Wolf Course lays claim to this title) designed by one of the least forgiving golf course architects of modern times in chamber of commerce weather. It's another to play said course with a headwind that makes your cheeks flap like a wayward spinnaker.

"We were thinking that they would be lucky to get out of here around par," says Las Vegas Paiute Resort's director of golf Byron Cone. "Then the next thing we know, the wind dies and the entire complexion of the match changes."

Just how drastic was the turnaround? Webb carded an 8-under 64, edging Sorenstam by a stroke in a match that featured 12 lead changes and neither player ever leading by more than one stroke.

"It turned out to be one of the classic women's matches on the Wonderful World of Golf," Cone says.

The caveat, as anyone familiar with the match will tell you, was that Webb and Sorenstam played the course from the 6483-yard yellow tees. With both players bombing drives 260 to 270 yards off the tee and the wind laying down like a coyote on valium, it's little wonder that par fell, and fell hard.

Most golf courses built in the past five years feature five sets of tees, but nowhere are they more welcome than at the Wolf Course.

"I can't think of anyone who has played from the back tees," he says. "From the tournament tees and black tees, there are more undulations than on the other two courses and there are more arroyos. I think it's a more visually spectacular course and the greens are larger on average. The idea is still that golfers will have fun out here."

"Fun" and "Pete Dye" are rarely mentioned in the same conversation, much less marketed as a package deal at a multi-million dollar resort property. True, it's a kindler, gentler Dye that is on display at the Sun and Snow Mountain Courses.

Not so much at the Wolf Course. Fairway landing areas are the size of McCarran International Airport runways and greens are the size of casino floors. But err on your approach shots and you're sure to find one of Dye's myriad of gaping, grass faced bunkers.

And if you do happen to take dead aim at a pin, be careful because the greens on the Wolf Course are as firm as a blackjack table.

"Right now, the greens are only going to receive shots from 8- or 9-irons," Cone says. "So on some of the par-5s you might think you can get on in two but the ball will roll off the back of the green."

More importantly than attempting heroic shots on the par-5s, it's paramount to get plenty of distance off the tee on the course's deep par-4s. All told, five par-4s on the Wolf Course play in excess of 440 yards from the black tees and No. 7 and No. 18 play to an incredible 470 and 476 yards, respectively.

While Dye's design credits include many phenomenal golf holes, none is more famous than the par-3, 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra, Fla. The hole's island green has provided the dramatic backdrop for the Player's Championship since 1982 and has sent thousands of balls to a watery grave.

The par-3 15th on the Wolf Course is Dye's nod to the 17th at TPC Sawgrass. The hole plays to 182 yards from the back tees to a true island green connected to the rest of the course by a narrow footpath. While the green complex is almost twice the size of its north Florida cousin, the prevailing morning wind is in your face and club selection is of the essence.

"One of our main goals is to get a PGA Tour event here with the Wolf Course to host it," says Cone.

Should the flatbellies ever tee it up on Nevada's longest golf track, holes like the 15th and the 580-yard par-5 third (reachable in two at this altitude) should make for some built-in drama. Cone also adds that unlike most new, upscale facilities around Glitter Gulch, the Wolf Course is actually quite walkable.

"The biggest challenge will be handling the spectators," says Cone.

The biggest challenge awaiting Las Vegas Paiute Resort, however, is the completion of the property's "other" amenities: a $500 million resort, an equestrian center, upscale shops, a spa and another 18-hole golf course.

"You won't recognize this place in a few years," says Terri L. Prebel, Paiute's director of marketing.

It's not likely that any golfers will complain about the makeover.

Fast facts

The Las Vegas Paiute Indians acquired the property for the resort by way of a land swap with the white man. The tribe owned 10 acres of land in what is now downtown Las Vegas and in 1983 they parlayed their valuable plot into a 4000-acre refuge just 25 minutes northwest of the Strip. Before it entered the golf course business, the tribe procured its fortunes in the smokeshop business.

Where to stay

Play in the hinterlands, but stay on the Strip. The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is an ideal home base for an extended weekend golf trip. The property is home to the 30,000-square foot Spa Mandalay, fine dining at 3950 and Aureole, the 1,800-seat House of Blues and a Shark Aquarium that is a must-see for both adults and kids. Mandalay Bay also features a golf desk, a fitness center and a collection of casual eateries and nightclubs. For more information, log on to

Get there

Take I-95 north to the Snow Mountain exit and turn right.


Conditions: 4.5
Scenery: 4.5
Layout: 4
Par 3's:
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Practice facilities:
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Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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